This week arrived with freshly fallen snow, new friends, and new mysteries to uncover for the Chickadees. Maddy, who worked with the Chickadee flock in the fall, came back for the day! The children were so excited to see and play with her. They also got to meet someone new — Edie! An intern who will be taking photos of the Chickadee and Nuthatch flocks this winter and writing blog posts to help share our stories with others. At Opening Circle, the Chickadees tried to figure out the mystery this week: What animal makes these strange noises, flies at night, and hunts small rodents? Then they flapped their wings and soared around in the snowy field, diving to catch their prey. What animal were they?

During slunch, Willa the Winter Fairy visited the flock once again as Maddy told the story of how Willa helped the forest by giving a lesson to Athena the Owl. 

Willa is at home in her ice castle sipping on some peppermint tea when she hears a knock on her door. She opens it to find her friends Greta the Gray Squirrel, Ringo the Red Squirrel, Rosa the Red Fox and others! They told Willa they needed help — their friend Athena the Barred Owl had been bragging to them about how good of a flyer she was, how she could fly silently through the forest at night without anyone hearing her. She was also constantly bragging about how good her eyesight was, how she could turn her head all the way around, how she was the best hunter in the forest with the sharpest talons, how she was wise and that no other animal in the forest was as good as she was. While Greta, Ringo, Rosa and the others thought of Athena as their friend, it was getting hard to be around her. They each had special gifts of their own and they felt like Athena didn’t care about them because she thought she was “the best.” But Willa had an idea! At dusk Willa and the animals traveled to Athena’s home where they waited for her to wake up. When she did, Greta and Ringo showed her how fast they can climb up and down trees and how they cache food they found in the fall to help them survive in the winter. Rosa showed off how silently she can walk in the snow. They also went down to the creek where Willa talked about the salamanders and frogs and how they bury themselves underneath rocks and mud until winter melts away into spring. All of this helped Athena realize that, while she has a lot of amazing skills, so do others! At dusk the next day, Willa and the animals visited Athena again and she said this — “Until yesterday I thought there was no other creature as cool as me, as wise as me, as fast as me, as smart as me, and as quiet as me. I thought there was no other creature in the forest who could even compare to me. But now I really appreciate what all of you can do. I appreciate how fast you can run, squirrels, and how hard you work to get your food in the winter. And how quiet you can be, fox. I appreciate that the frogs and the salamanders can do incredible things, too. I’m still going to appreciate all the things I can do but also what you can do too!”

Listen! Did you hear that? A hoot sounded from the other side of the ridge. Where is that sound coming from?

The Chickadees headed up the hill and around the big tree to find Maddy hooting like a barred owl. With Willa’s introduction to this week’s mystery creature – owls – the flock was learning lots of interesting things about the wise birds. They learned how to make a barred owl call: who-cooks-for-you. The forest echoed with these owl calls as they played hide-and-hoot.

Wednesday morning greeted us with falling snow and beautiful winter weather. As the big flakes came down around us, the Chickadees were surprised to head to a big hill after Opening Circle instead of Trillium Camp. What did they find there? A bright orange sled and lots of snow to slide on! The morning was spent flying down the hill in the winter weather and playing in the falling snow.

After all the activity the Chickadees settled in for slunch, where Eli told the story of the time he thought he was being followed by a pack of baboons that turned out to be a barred owl calling from the other side of the woods. Then Nora told the flock about the time Willa the Winter Fairy told young owlets a traditional Haudenosaunee story about how owls gained their wisdom and wide eyes. Owls weren’t always so wise and patient! But when owl made the Creator very mad by being insistent and impatient, Owl learned to keep his eyes and ears open and use his wisdom to stay out of trouble.

Afterwards the Chickadees went inside to warm some chilly fingers and toes (this was our coldest day of preschool yet!) and discovered three small oval-shaped objects covered in aluminum foil. Eli explained that these were owl pellets! He said that since owls swallow their prey whole (bones, fur and all!), they have to regurgitate the parts they can’t digest. The flock divided into three groups and each got to help take apart the owl pellets. Inside they found fur and small, delicate bones. The Chickadees would like to give a special thank you to Elisabeth from the Nuthatches for ordering these for us! 

“Everyone close your eyes. What do you feel?” In Opening Circle on Thursday, Hannah brought a brown-striped mystery for the Chickadees. It was a secondary flight feather from a Great Horned Owl! There were so many types of interesting owls to learn about this week. The flock practiced being owls today by playing “Owl Spy” and using their owl eyes to find different objects around the front field.

After warming up at a toasty fire at slunch, Hannah explained that the flock was going to become owls again! This time they had to use their owl eyes as they flew through the forest, looking for objects hidden in the woods. Along the path to Trillium camp, the Chickadees took turns walking with their eyes wide open, finding colorful scarves, snakes, and even tiny owls hidden in the trees! They weren’t allowed to touch the object or say what they found out loud and had to glide past as silently as an owl. The Chickadees gained lots of wisdom from their owl friends this week.

Office Location:
Cornell Cooperative Extension, 615 Willow Ave., Ithaca, NY 14850
607-272-2292 | email Us

Preschool Location: 
4-H Acres, 418 Lower Creek Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850


Ithaca Forest Preschool is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and is run by Primitive Pursuits, a 4-H Program.